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Irish Coffee: The Rajon Rondo roller coaster

Wake up with the Celtics [1] and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Make no mistake: The Celtics’ 97-81 loss to the Bulls falls on Rajon Rondo [2]‘s shoulders.

To say he got outplayed by Derrick Rose [3] is like saying the seas got a little choppy during “The Perfect Storm.” Rose obliterated Rondo, tying a neat little bow around his NBA Most Valuable Player trophy and effectively clinching the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed in the process.

The box score tells you plenty. Rose outscored Rondo by 23 points on just six more shots. He got to the free-throw line seven more times (making nine more foul shots). He knocked down as many 3-pointers on Thursday night as Rondo has totaled in his last 33 games. He recorded more steals than the league’s second-best theft. He produced more assists than a guy who had averaged 3.3 more dimes per game. And the most damning statistic: In terms of plus/minus, Rose (+24) owned a 38-point edge over Rondo (-14).

But the box score doesn’t tell the entire story. Offensively, Rose blew by Rondo at will, wreaking havoc on the league’s best defense. Kevin Garnett [4] and another Celtics defender constantly provided help, leaving Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah [5] and just about every other Bulls big wide open on the weakside to put back rare Rose misses.

Remember when Rose stormed by Rondo and lost the ball underneath the basket, only to fire the ball out to Luol Deng for a wide open 3-pointer to put the Bulls up, 44-37? Those are the kinds of things that happen when a point guard walks into the lane as easily as my mother walks along Bay Lane. And those are the kinds of things that Rondo failed to do for the Celtics all night.

You wonder why Keith friggin’ Bogans played Ray Allen [6] to a standstill, and then you realize that Rondo failed to create open shots for the game’s greatest shooter. When’s the last time the Big Three were all held to 15 points or fewer? Oh, that’s right, it was an awful 93-77 loss to the Rockets on March 18, when Rondo (4 points, 6 assists) got torched by Kyle Lowry [7] (20 points, 9 assists).

It’s fairly simple: When the Celtics have more assists than their opponent, they’re 50-11; when they don’t, they’re 4-13. And who’s “the head of the monster” who steers the C’s ship, as Allen said on Mut & Merloni? That’s right, Rondo.

If Rondo succeeds, the Celtics succeed. When he produces 10 or more assists, the Celtics are 35-6, and that .854 winning percentage only climbs higher as his assist totals sore. When Rondo gets to 13 assists, the Celtics are 13-2 (an .867 winning percentage). In the 10 games he’s reached 16 assists, the C’s are a perfect 10-0.

Likewise, when Rondo fails, so too do the Celtics. If he doesn’t reach double-digit assists, the Celtics are 11-14. And they’re 3-6 when he’s held to six or fewer assists, as he was against the Bulls on Thursday night.

In his last meeting with each of the game’s four other great young point guards — Rose, Chris Paul [8], Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook [9] — Rondo has been outplayed all four times, averaging 8.0 points and 6.8 assists while finishing 1-3 against them. Meanwhile, those four produced 20.3 points and 9.5 assists per game against him.

Can Rondo return to the guy who averaged 13.8 assists in 20 games before suffering an ankle injury in December? Or will it take the offseason for him to recover from the slew of injuries he’s suffered this season? Time will tell, but the fact that Celtics coach Doc Rivers [10] left Delonte West [11] on the floor for the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s loss certainly wasn’t a good sign.


In the postgame aftermath, nobody was more straightforward than Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. Here are the highlights from his discussion with the Chicago Sun-Times [12]:


Three of the NBA’s best columnists attended what was supposed to be a playoff atmosphere between the Celtics and Bulls in Chicago. Instead, it turned into a laundry list of concerns about the defending Eastern Conference champions. Here’s an appetizer of each column before you delve into the main courses:

For anybody who believes the loss to the Bulls can be attributed to the absence of Perkins, consider the following points (not including how well I thought Jermaine O’Neal [17] played defensively, despite not grabbing a rebound):

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee or a future mailbag? Send an e-mail tobrohrbach@weei.com [20] or a Twitter message to @brohrbach [21].)